Arpanet was created in 1969 as a way to share information between computers. It spawned not only the modern internet but also the first U.S. data privacy law, the Privacy Act of 1974, dictating how data should be handled by government agencies.
Thus, data privacy legislation was born, and by its nature, carries a legal mandate for how data is captured, stored and used, providing businesses with guidelines that are enforceable by law.
Since 1974, a host of data privacy laws have been enacted, both in the U.S. and worldwide. In more recent years, as data collection has increased, so has demand for internal company practices to follow ethical data guidelines. While companies are legally required to protect customer data, navigating data privacy with an ethics-based approach is different: It’s an entirely voluntary and highly individualized corporate decision, qualitatively driven by a company’s people, principles and purpose.
But data ethics can go above and beyond legislation, filling the gap between compliance and day-to-day process. It represents the promises a company makes to its consumers.
Businesses typically start by developing a data ethics agenda, which refers to principles and practices designed to ensure data usage methods are ethical, fair, responsible and transparent. The output is an implementation plan, including precise details like departmental ownership, cross-functional education, assessment and measurement.
If you understand the functions and responsibilities of data privacy versus data ethics, you’ll quickly see that they can’t be combined into one person or even one team, which is why collaboration is so important: Data privacy needs a team of licensed, specially trained and often certified legal experts to track the ever-changing global privacy landscape, interpret new laws and ensure your company is taking the appropriate steps to be compliant.
Every department that touches data needs representation within a data ethics team to work together on data collection, data storage, audience creation, business strategy and marketing.